Overstaying Their Welcome: Meet The Most Unwelcome Bacteria That Live In Your Mouth

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If your mouth is unhealthy, your entire health is at risk. Periodontal disease and cavities are two of the most common conditions affecting oral health worldwide, and while you might understand the basics of each condition, you probably do not know the actual antagonists behind these two conditions. Meet the bacteria behind these two oral health concerns.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease affects a whopping one out of every two American adults over the age of 30, and the rates are even higher in older Americans

Mild cases of periodontal disease are diagnosed as gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums might be swollen or irritated, but you probably will not notice because damage is only just beginning to occur.

When gingivitis goes untreated, it develops into periodontal disease. The bacteria-laden plaque enter the gums and destroy tissue, causing teeth to become loose and, eventually, fall out. In some cases, toxins enter the bloodstream and put other organs at risk; in other cases, the bacteria attack the bone.

The Suspect: Two microbe ringleaders work together to wreak havoc on your gums: Treponema denticola and Porphyromonas gingivalis. T. denticola is a very hardy bacterium that can withstand extreme temperatures and extreme acidity levels, so it is very difficult to eradicate.

On the plus side, however, T. denticola cannot do much damage on its own; this bacterium must colonize with other bacteria to create a "biofilm," or a community of bacteria. T. denticola has a particularly strong ally in P. gingivalis, which lives beneath your gum surface.  Together with other bacteria, these two microbes form a slimy biofilm ready to ruin your gums.  


If your dentist has ever told you that you have cavities, you probably think that your dentist is severely judging your oral health habits. Actually, cavities, or "dental caries" as they are officially called, can also result from your dietary habits, high acidity in your mouth, and a lack of fluoride.

A cavity forms when the enamel on your tooth is constantly exposed to acidic plaque. This acid forms when sugars and starches in your mouth combine with existing bacteria in your mouth.  Over time, the acid wears away at first your enamel, then dentin, and, finally, to the pulp.

The Suspect: Streptococcus mutans is a sturdy bacterium that roost on the surfaces of your teeth. S. mutans bacteria form biofilm colonies of between 300 and 500 cells, but some teeth have larger colonies.

If you eat a lot of sugary foods, you are giving S. mutans colonies a paradise. These bacteria feast on the glucose, sucrose, and fructose that make up sugars and transform the remains into an acid. Left untreated, the S. mutans bacteria continue transforming sugars into acid and the acid continues to make its way through your tooth. 

To keep your mouth in the best possible shape, seek regular treatments and cleanings form a dentist such as Edwards; Kenneth G.